CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s interim prime minister and a number of senior government officials were arrested Monday, the information ministry said, describing the actions as a military coup.
The internet in the country was largely cut off and military forces closed bridges, according to the ministry’s Facebook page. It said the whereabouts of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok were not immediately known. Meanwhile, the country’s state news channel played patriotic traditional music and scenes of the Nile river.
The country’s main pro-democracy group and the largest political party urged people in separate appeals to take to the streets to counter the apparent military coup. Thousands of people flooded the streets of Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman. Footage shared online appeared to show protesters blocking streets and setting fire to tires as security forces used tear gas to disperse them.
A takeover by the military would be a major setback for Sudan, which has grappled with a transition to democracy since long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was toppled by mass protests two years ago.
Early Monday, the U.S. Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said Washington was “deeply alarmed” by reports of the military takeover.
Monday’s arrests come after weeks of rising tensions between Sudan’s civilian and military leaders. A failed coup attempt in September fractured the country along old lines, pitting more-conservative Islamists who want a military government against those who toppled al-Bashir in protests. In recent days, both camps have taken to the street in demonstrations.
The information ministry said on its Facebook page that Hamdok was detained and taken to an undisclosed location. It said a number of officials were also detained and their whereabouts were not known.
Earlier Monday, two officials confirmed that at least five government figures were the detained. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The officials said the detained government members include Industry Minister Ibrahim al-Sheikh, Information Minister Hamza Baloul, and Mohammed al-Fiky Suliman, member of the country’s ruling transitional body, known as The Sovereign Council, and Faisal Mohammed Saleh, a media adviser to Hamdok. Ayman Khalid, governor of the state containing the capital, Khartoum, was also arrested, according to the official Facebook page of his office.
Under Hamdok and the transitional council, Sudan has slowly emerged from years of international pariah status in which it existed under al-Bashir. The country was removed from the United States’ state supporter of terror list in 2020, opening the door for badly needed international loans and investment. But the country’s economy has struggled with the shock of a number economic reforms called for by international lending institutions.
There have been previous military coups in Sudan since it gained its independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. Al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 military coup that removed the country’s last elected government.
The arrests followed meetings by Feltman, the special U.S. envoy, with Sudanese military and civilian leaders Saturday and Sunday in efforts to resolve the dispute. Sudan’s state news website highlighted the meetings with military officials.
The Sudanese Communist Party called on workers to go on strike and mass civil disobedience after what it described as a “full military coup” orchestrated by the Sovereign Council’s head Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan.
NetBlocks, a group which tracks disruptions across the internet, said it had seen a “significant disruption” to both fixed-line and mobile internet connections across Sudan with multiple providers early Monday.
“Metrics corroborate user reports network disruptions appearing consistent with an internet shutdown,” the advocacy group said. “The disruption is likely to limit the free flow of information online and news coverage of incidents on the ground.”